By Eleanor Roosevelt
May 1, 1941
Oakland, Calif., Wednesday –
Yesterday morning, in Los Angeles, I visited Judge Shontz’s court. It is a court of little people who have claims for sums of money under $30. I found it very interesting sitting beside her listening for a few minutes to their problems.
From there we visited the Assistance League, a really remarkable organization that Mrs. Hancock Banning is the most active and moving force. I saw a day nursery with the children actually at play out of doors and lunch in preparation, a place for the older boys to do craft work and play games out of doors, a library, a girls’ recreation club and a welfare department where people are helped to get jobs and where the placement record is high.
We also visited the Thrift Shop, the Craft Shop, the sewing rooms and the tea room, where women interested in this charity earn much of the money which is given to the support of the other undertakings. It seemed a very busy spot, spread out over quite an area, but full of hope for the betterment of the conditions of the people in that part of the city. This is indicated by the fact that juvenile delinquency has dropped 64% since the establishment of the boys’ and girls’ recreation classes.
We went back to Mrs. Douglas’ in time to see a really remarkable collection of craftwork done by the Mexican-American youngsters in NYA groups. Though weaving and ceramics have been taught for only three months, they would be a credit to workers of much longer experience. Finally, a last visit with young Mrs. James Roosevelt and a very quiet lunch before starting at 2 o’clock to drive to Hanford, California. It was nearly 195 miles and, in spite of gray skies, we had one or two glorious glimpses of fields of wild flowers.
In one place a sea of blue seemed to spread out before us. In another field, yellow and blue seemed to be the dominant colors. I had always heard of the beauty of these wild flowers in spring and, while they tell me I am not seeing them at their best at present, still I am extremely glad to carry away this vision of loveliness.
On our arrival, we drove around the very charming town of Hanford and admired the public buildings, schools and charming tree lined streets with their attractive homes. After the lecture, we said goodbye at Tulare to our kind hosts and took the night train for Oakland, where we are now about to board a plane on our way to Eugene, Oregon.
May 2, 1941
On the train from Eugene, Or. to Portland, Or. –
Yesterday began well because our friend of the Southern Pacific Lines, Mr. Lathrop, invited us to breakfast with him on the train. Our plane was a little late, but we enjoyed the trip. We flew for a time over white covered mountains and saw beautiful mountain peaks emerge around us from their enveloping clouds.
In Medford, Ore., the Twenty-Thirty Club presented me with a box of preserved salad pears, all of very beautiful colors, but a little difficult to carry under one’s arm. I hope, therefore, that my daughter will let us eat them while we are with her.
The drive from Portland to Eugene was very lovely and reminded me of the country back of the Hudson River. The dean of the University of Oregon, Mr. Karl Onthank, his wife and daughter, came to meet us and were most kind and thoughtful.
I enjoyed the evening at the University, as I always do when I have an opportunity of being with young people. It was the students’ evening, and so Mr. Gleeson Payne, the student body president, introduced me. A fine looking boy, and from what the dean told me about him, I felt that the future could hold few insurmountable obstacles for him because he has already met and conquered so many.
There was a short reception after the lecture period. I had an opportunity to discuss various things, including my own article in the the Ladies’ Home Journal, with a group of the girls sitting in front of one of the big fireplaces, where tremendous logs burn.
This morning we left the hotel rather early and went to visit NYA resident centers. The boys’ center is being built largely by the boys themselves, and many of them were at work under excellent foremen. They have a fine vocational school in Eugene functioning in cooperation with the program which Dr. John Studebaker, head of the Federal Bureau of Education, has sponsored. Here boys and girls on NYA, people on WPA, and students, are obtaining re-training. The school runs 24 hours a day and every department is run the way a business or shop would actually function.
We stopped at a girls’ resident NYA house, where everyone seemed happy. It is similar to many others throughout the country and also has a sewing project.
Our train was ten minutes late and we were glad to have even these few minutes, which made it possible for us to see a little bit more before leaving Eugene. Now we are on our way back to Portland.
May 3, 1941
Seattle, Wash., Friday –
Yesterday, on the train, coming into Portland, Ore., a Scotchman and his wife, who were on their way to spend a short vacation in Canada after several years in Government service in Shanghai, China, came in to speak to me. It was evident to them that it was a great relief to get away from some of the experiences they have lived through in China.
We were met at the station in Portland by members of the American Legion, who were sponsoring my lecture, and went directly to the hotel. Until 5:00, we were busy with mail, and then I went down for an hour to meet some of the Legion members and their guests.
There were many familiar faces among the Democrats who came. I was glad to see Mr. David Honeyman and two of the Honeyman girls. Mrs. Honeyman, unfortunately, has been in the East while I have been in the West, so I missed seeing her, much to my regret.
A friend of hers, Mr. Mowry, the composer, came to see me for a few minutes. I also had a short visit from a young man whom I am beginning to look upon almost as an old friend, Richard Neuberger, who is now a member of the Oregon State Legislature.
All afternoon, more or less, I had been listening with one ear for my daughter and son-in-law’s arrival. When I went upstairs after the reception, I was overjoyed to hear their voices in Miss Thompson’s room. We always have more to talk about than there is time to say. We were through dinner and I had to leave for the lecture, and still we practically had to stop in the middle of a sentence.
We made our plane very comfortably and reached Seattle just before midnight. It was like coming home to find ourselves sitting in Mr. and Mrs. Boettiger’s living room, munching apples before we went to bed.
This morning I realized how much children can grow in six months, for Sis and Buzz seem to have changed much since I was here last fall. The greatest change, of course, is in our little 2-year-old, Johnny. Miss Thompson and I have learned not to make too rapid advances, but he was soon playing a game with us from behind the screen. I think we shall be accepted as part of the family before the day is out.
Here we are again spending the morning on mail. Our day is our own with no obligations, which is a very pleasant feeling.
May 5, 1941
Seattle, Sunday –
I have a letter from Mr. Theodore Dreiser in Hollywood, California, telling me that he has been sent some copies of my column which appeared on April 10. In it he says that I stated:
After dinner Mr. Theodore Dreiser showed us some slides of Black Mountain College near Asheville, North Carolina.
I can only infer that this error was made in a few papers. I know it was not made in my own copy, for I have that in my files. The name, of course, was Mr. Theodore Dreier, who teaches at Black Mountain College and is a nephew of a very old friend, Miss Mary Dreier. Mr. Dreiser is troubled because he feels that his following in the country will believe that he is friendly enough to the President or his foreign policy, to come to the White House for any reason whatsoever.
I am sorry, of course, that a typographical error of this kind, even though I am not responsible for it, should have caused Mr. Dreiser such embarrassment. I am taking this opportunity to state very clearly that Mr. Dreiser did not come to the White House and is still opposed to the President and his foreign policy.
Yesterday was my daughter’s birthday and we celebrated by having a completely family day. At breakfast she was given a few presents and then her two eldest children presented her with the nicest possible gift. With the aid of their music teacher, they had each made recordings wishing her a happy birthday and playing two complete pieces on the piano for her.
At noon, to everybody’s joy, we went off on the boat for a picnic lunch. I was told with great enthusiasm, that the cooking would be done by the gentlemen of the family, who would give us fried egg sandwiches. They proved excellent and the sun shone and we had a marvelous time. We returned early enough to play a while with Johnny, so he would not be disappointed. Then we had a birthday dinner with the necessary cake and candles. Thus ended a happy day.
Friday evening, my son-in-law showed Miss Thompson and me some of the movies taken of the inauguration in January and at various times when we have been out here. They will be a wonderful record for the children when they are grown.
Today, Anna has gathered together for me a number of people from the faculties and student bodies of various colleges. They will lunch here and we shall have an opportunity to talk over some of the work of the International Student Service. I have just joined the executive committee of this organization and am very anxious to see the work grow on the campuses in different parts of the country.
May 6, 1941
Seattle, Monday –
About ten colleges and universities of the International Student Service were represented here yesterday at luncheon and stayed with us until nearly 4:00. They agreed that they wished to have a further discussion in preparation for some kind of work next winter. Everyone present felt that greater clarification of the problems of today, through discussion, is one of the needs on the campuses.
We all talked to the President on the telephone Saturday night, even the youngest member of the family managed to say “hello, Grandpa,” and to be really understood. Originally I had thought that, because my husband was away from Washington, he would not be able to talk to us on Anna’s birthday and would have to wait until Sunday. However, he managed his conversation quite as well from Charlottesville, Virginia.
It was fortunate for us because we left at about 5:00 p.m. yesterday and went across the lake on the floating concrete bridge, which always seems to me the most extraordinary engineering feat. Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Donogh,whom we have visited, have a charming house with a lovely view of the water.
Mr. Donogh enjoys really good food. He has arranged a charcoal burner for his own use and we were given the best steaks I have eaten in many a long day. They showed us the outdoor grill where they cook and eat during the summer months. I think they look upon this indoor one as a mere makeshift which makes the winter months possible.
We came home fairly early and took Miss Thompson to her train for Chicago. I think she really likes this trip because for two solid days she can sleep as late in the morning as she wants, with no feeling that I am going to suggest work before she can drink her morning coffee.
If all goes well, I shall reach Chicago an hour before she does. I take it for granted that all will go well, for I have been so fortunate on my last few trips by air. It won’t prevent me, however, from saying a little prayer to the weatherman.
Everyone asks me out here if I don’t prefer this climate to that in the East, and I must say it has many advantages. I have said before that this Northwestern Coast is very like the coast I know so well on the Northeastern shore of our Continent, and quite agree with my children and grandchildren that this is a grand place in which to live. The West is a young man’s country and there is a spirit of freedom in the air, but I am afraid that I am too old to change in my loyalty to my own home on the Hudson River.
Today is a busy day, but I shall have to tell you about it tomorrow.
May 7, 1941
Seattle, Tuesday –
Yesterday was a very interesting day. In the morning we went down to the Boeing Aircraft factory. This was my first view of four-motored bombers. They also make smaller two-motored military aircraft, but I did not see any of them finished. One order of bombers was just completed, and the machines on the floor were there for modernization.
That seems to be one trouble with building military aircraft when a war is going on. In actual use, weaknesses of design or of armament are discovered and inventors try to find new ways of correcting them. This means that machines that have been out for a year, or even less, have to return for drastic changes.
This is a tremendous plant, covering an area which seemed at least a mile long as we walked around it. I was interested to find some women sewing in one section. They still do it better than men.
Our main object in being there yesterday was to attend the graduation of a group of apprentices. Washington has been one of the state that, for some time, has had an apprenticeship council composed of employers, organized labor representatives and a member for the public. This year, the Governor has signed a law giving the state a Director of Apprenticeship.
The apprentice programs have been carried on even during the Depression. Young men work for four years in the shops. Each year they cover a certain amount of work and, at the end, they are skilled mechanics with a knowledge of the whole job. In addition to their shop work, they take four hours a week of related training in the Edison vocational school. They are paid during this period of training; beginning with a minimum of 40¢ an hour, and receiving an increase every six months until they earn the journeyman’s wage. They work 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, and their related training is 4 hours of extra study.
In the evening we went over to the graduation of the building and metal trades apprentices at the Mercer School and saw all the different classes at work. The instruction is all given under expert workmen. The only thing which grieved me was to see so much really excellent work being done, which might be of real use, and which had to be torn up so that the next class could do it over again.
However, someone else must have had my sense of thrift, for they have just begun to build a small house in which each of the trades will do its practice work. The house will then be taken and put on a foundation, and either sold or given for some useful purpose. A new house will then be begun. Since the materials used are all donated, a double purpose will be served. The boys will obtain their experience and someone will have a completed place in which to live.
May 8, 1941
Chicago, Wednesday –
I never leave my family in Seattle without real regret, but yesterday afternoon I had to go. This has been a rather longer visit than usual and we have done more things which were not purely part of a family reunion.
Yesterday morning, before leaving, I went to see some of the National Youth Administration work. Their resident project here is not as yet finished, but they have some defense training similar to that going on in various places. I had some difficulty getting clear in my mind the various types of training which I had seen. That which is being done under the Apprenticeship Council and in collaboration with the Edison Vocational School, is under the Smith-Hughes Act and has nothing to do with defense training.
Defense training is being carried on in three other vocational high schools. As in other places, they must take 50% of the people to be re-trained from the WPA program. I was told there had been some difficulty here because so many of their WPA people never had a skill. The other 50% in this defense training program are either employed and coming in for refresher courses, or young people from NYA who can qualify, or from some other qualified source.
I think it is safe to say that cuts in WPA everywhere in the country are affecting adversely the married or single woman who is the breadwinner for her family. In many cases a really serious condition is being brought about. The whole question of WPA cuts should have some careful revision and consideration. People removed from WPA and who still cannot find work, go on relief, with an increased burden on the locality and a loss of self-respect to the individual.
In addition to this just now, I think there is on the part of many of the women a great sense of injustice. In the case of NYA, the quota everywhere continues to be filled, because all eligible young people were never on NYA in the past.
I have a suggestion in a letter from a woman and it has been running through my mind ever since I read it. She feels that we should start some gigantic projects for saving and processing all kinds of foodstuffs in preparation for feeding a good part of the world someday. I have been wondering if every community should not start the study of what could be done with every kind of waste material.
It will require a great deal of education and much labor, but it might mean that many people who now go without things here in our own country, might have far more than they have ever had before. It seems to me that the study should be done at first, community by community, and then spread out as the need and efficiency methods seem to indicate. This is just an idea, but I hope someone will give it some real thought.
Here I am in Chicago, and I shall spend the morning getting a good rest after the night on the plane.
May 9, 1941
New York, Thursday –
It was nice to meet Miss Thompson again yesterday morning in Chicago. We were both surprised to find the weather really springlike, though I suppose by May 7th we might have expected that.
After a morning spent at the hotel, not quite as peacefully as I had hoped because the telephone rang rather frequently and we found a great deal of mail awaiting us, we went to the WPA Household Training Center at 2:30. This training center for colored girls has done a wonderful piece of work and I feel sure has proven of great value to the community.
At 3:15, we went to the South Side Community Art Center to dedicate their building. From there we made our plane to New York City very comfortably.
Chicago has long been a center of Negro art. Many Negro artists have had a hard time getting their training and have starved as many artists do, even when they have achieved a certain amount of recognition. The Art Center is situated in the old home of Charles Comiskey, who was once a great baseball magnate.
It had become a rooming house before the South Side Community Art Center had bought it a year ago. With the aid of federal money it has been converted to its present purposes. There are classes in drawing, oil and water color painting, poster design, lettering and composition. Gradually the teaching of some of the crafts and other skills will be added.
It was all a most delightful experience and I am happy to have been able to spend this time in Chicago and to assist at these ceremonies.
Now I want to talk to you for a little while on a subject which has long been on my mind, namely; the improvement in our schools of physical education, instruction and guidance in healthful living, a wider recreational use of school facilities and the development of school camps. All these purposes are gathered together in a bill sponsored by Mr. Pius L. Schwert, a member of Congress from the 42nd District from New York State.
He suggests the appropriation of certain sums of money to be distributed to the various states for these purposes. I hope that in New York State this summer, there will be some camps for high school students under the guidance of the school system. I feel that the draft is proving to us that our young people are not receiving proper medical care or adequate diet for the best possible physical development and the schools can do much to improve the situation.
May 10, 1941
Hyde Park, Friday –
Our trip from Chicago to New York City on Wednesday evening was somewhat rough in spots and we passed through a number of electrical storms. As I sat back and watched all the heads of the people in front of me in the plane, I could not help wondering about what goes through everybody’s mind when the light flashes on which says:
Fasten your seat belt.
Those who are not happy in the air must have some uncomfortable minutes wondering if it is going to be rough enough to upset their insides. However, I am always impressed by the good sportsmanship which people show, even when they may be going through their first airplane experience and are wondering whether the plane can stand such violent bumps and shifts in the air. You can usually tell an old-timer, because he will look reassuringly and smilingly at his neighbors when they experience a particularly upsetting motion.
Yesterday, in New York City, I was photographed with the Chinese Consul and an attractive young Chinese girl, who wore the dress which is going to be presented to Madame Chiang Kai-shek. It was made in this country from material of Chinese design. All of these designs have some meaning in Chinese and I think they make very charming materials.
I was also presented with a dress made from one of these designs, which I shall wear with great pleasure during the summer. A percentage of the proceeds from the sales of these materials will go to Chinese relief. Of all the various pins given by the organizations helping different countries, I think the little ones designed by the Chinese Relief Fund are, perhaps, the least conspicuous and the easiest to wear by men and women. I came away with several in different colors, which had been presented to me.
We drove to Hyde Park after an early supper in New York City. For some unknown reason I was particularly wide awake last night, in spite of rather short hours of sleep during the last few days. I finished marking what mail I had and then read to the end of Eric Knight’s novel This Above All.
I think you will find it interesting reading. Parts of it are so painful I could hardly go on, but other parts are very beautifully written. Much of the mental and emotional struggle which the characters go through will be a familiar experience to many men and women in many countries of the world.
The questions that stir the souls and minds of young men and young women today have no easy solutions. One can only hope that out of them will come a determination really to build a better world, no matter what we have to go through in achieving it.
This morning I spoke at the Franklin D. Roosevelt High School and left the young people discussing with experts the possible careers opening up before them.
May 12, 1941
Hyde Park, Sunday –
Since I have been here, I have tried to make up my mind which of the books accumulated during the winter I can pass on to the libraries and high schools in Hyde Park Village. There are certain books that I feel I want to keep indefinitely. However it seems selfish not to pass on a book so that others can read it, if one has enjoyed it and does not want to keep it permanently. Nevertheless, deciding what to keep is always difficult for me.
Since it rained Friday afternoon, it was not so difficult to decide to stay indoors, but yesterday and today the weather was so beautiful that it was a shame not to be out as much as possible. I walked around yesterday morning, looked at every plant and shrub, and was delighted to find that the little bit of carefully tended lawn in front of my porch and Miss Thompson’s porch, really looks like a lawn, for the grass seems to be nice and thick and springy.
All kinds of birds chirp and call to each other in the early morning around my sleeping porch. The robin, whose nest was so near my bathroom window last year that I could never shut it, for fear of disturbing the mother bird, has not returned.
I love spring in the country and at last we have enough rain. Though the President is very anxious to discover whether his young trees have all survived the early spring drought, everything not newly planted seems to be unharmed and to have the most beautiful spring foliage.
Yesterday noon, I went to a well attended meeting held under the auspices of the National Vocational Guidance Association at the Franklin D. Roosevelt High School. A New York University group put on a skit about the “Follies” of guidance. It was most entertaining and I am sure those familiar with the field enjoyed it even more than I did, because some of the references seemed to afford them so much amusement.
From there I went to the lunch of the Dutchess County Democratic Clubs in Poughkeepsie, where Mrs. Charles Tillett, Vice-Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Dean C. Mildred Thompson of Vassar and Miss Marion Dickerman spoke, and a very charming young woman sang.
I missed the first part of Dean Thompson’s speech, but heard all the others and was very happy to see Mrs. Tillett for a few minutes. We were so grateful to her for taking the trouble to come from Charlotte, NC, for this luncheon.
May 13, 1941
New York, Monday –
Saturday evening, I heard the record which Lynn Fontanne made of the poem “The White Cliffs of Dover” by Alice Duer Miller. It is a beautiful recording and anyone who likes the poem will enjoy it.
These records were a gift and together with them came two volumes of Sir Cecil Spring-Rice’s Letters and Friendships which I had been seeking, but which had to turn up in a second-hand book sale. I am not a good person at watching for any particular item. Life becomes hurried and I forget to look, and so I am most grateful to the thoughtful and kind friends who gave me these treasures, which are going to be a continuing joy.
Rather sadly, I left Hyde Park right after lunch and reached New York City in time to go the the broadcasting studio and be present at the National Youth Administration broadcast, which closed American Music Week. At this last concert they sang music by Negro composers. One particularly beautiful song, “Ode To America,” composed by Jules Bledsoe, renowned American singer, was dedicated to the President.
Yesterday morning I went to the big house and enjoyed a chat with my mother-in-law and Ethel, Franklin Jr.'s wife. She has brought their small boy to stay awhile, for she will be more or less on the wing while the destroyer to which Franklin Jr. is assigned moves around.
My mother-in-law was going over speeches for the two broadcasts she made, as she has done in years past on Mother’s Day. There is no one I know who sets greater value on the duties and pleasures of motherhood and who is certainly an appreciative person to speak to other mothers on that day.
A quiet dinner and an evening spent at home after seeing some people immediately after the broadcast.
Today I had several appointments. At noon, I received the France Quand Meme Relief Committee pin from Madame Houdry, president of the committee. From there I went to the luncheon given by Mr. Robert Porterfield of the Barter Theatre.
Here I gave the award to the winner of their annual prize. This year it went to Ethel Barrymore for her performance in The Corn Is Green. I certainly enjoyed the play when I saw it early in the winter, so I paid my tribute to her on this occasion with real warmth and admiration.
Just a week from today, on May 19, Boys’ Club Week will be celebrated throughout the United States. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the founding of boys’ clubs in America. These clubs have meant so much to the youth of our country that I hope every community will show its appreciation to the boys and to those who have worked in the organization and have made it as strong and useful as it is today.
May 14, 1941
Washington, Tuesday –
Yesterday evening, in New York City, Mrs. Henry Goddard Leach called for Mrs. Morgenthau and me to go to the Women’s City Club dinner. It was the 25th anniversary of the founding of the club. I was sorry that my old friend, Mrs. Norman de R. Whitehouse (de small letters space capital R. period), in whose house the idea of a woman’s city club was first discussed, could not be present. But Dr. Josephine Baker, who was among the founders, presided with grace and efficiency.
I did not join the club until my husband returned to New York City in 1920 from Washington, but I have had the good fortune to know many of the original founders. I remember with affection and admiration, Miss Mary Garrett Hay’s leadership in the first days when I became active on the board. I was sorry too that Mrs. Edward Dreier (correct) who was president during most of the years when I worked there, was away and could not be present.
I think the women can be proud of the record of their accomplishments. But, above everything else, it seems to me that they should be encouraged by the fact that they have been able to induce a number of women to take an active part on committees, which are really informing themselves on municipal government.
I was particularly pleased last night to note the youth of many of the chairmen of the committees, who stood up to take their bows. I have always felt that when young people come into an organization, that organization is on a firm foundation and will continue to grow.
The platform for next year was read by the club’s new president, Miss Bartlett. Then Mr. Newbold Morris, who frequently pinch-hits very successfully for the busy and overburdened Mayor of New York City, discussed this platform and gave the point of view of a city official on some of the things which the women suggested.
His talk was excellent and the audience listened attentively. It was a tribute to him and also to the educational work done by the Women’s City Club in the past few years.
Mrs. Morgenthau and I flew to Washington this morning. It was certainly grand to return and be met by so many smiling faces, to find the President feeling much better and our son, Elliott, and his wife, Ruth, still here. In these times, when our children scatter to parts unknown, under orders, even a day or two, or a few hours here and there, make a difference in life. The President started in soon after my arrival with a stream of visitors and I went directly to my press conference.
In a few minutes I shall go to lunch with the ladies of the Senate. So you see, the Washington routine begins again with great rapidity.